The (Ridiculous) Difference Between the Regulation of Toothpaste and Pet Food – Truth about Pet Food

On September 16, 2022 the FDA issued a recall – “Voluntary Recall of Certain Over-the-Counter Products Sold at Family Dollar Stores Because They Were Stored Outside of Temperature Requirements.” The products recalled ranged from pregnancy tests, condoms, marijuana test strips, to toothpaste. The reason these products were recalled was (bold added for emphasis) “due to product being stored outside of labeled temperature requirements.”

This recall occurred ONLY because the products are labeled with storage temperature requirements.

According to a New York Times post from 2011 – “Pharmaceutical manufacturers recommend most of their products be stored at a controlled room temperature of 68 to 77 degrees , said Skye McKennon, clinical assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy. In truth, that is the range in which manufacturers guarantee product integrity. ‘During heat waves and cold spells, storage locations can go above or below those ranges, causing medicines to physically change, lose potency or even threaten your health,’ Dr. McKennon said.”

But with pet food…there are few to NO labeled temperature requirements.

Statements on labels equate to accountability. An example would be the Guaranteed Analysis statement found on every pet food label. If a pet food states it contains a minimum of 20% protein, the product can be recalled or the company can be sued if found to contain less that what is stated on the label.

Without labeled temperature requirements, pet foods can be stored or transported in extreme temperatures with detrimental outcomes.

Tufts Veterinary School states: “When exposed to high temperatures or humidity, fats in pet foods can become rancid and nutrients in the food can break down. High temperature and humidity also provide the perfect environment for mold and bacteria to thrive.”

The Hill’s Pet Food website (not their pet food labels) states: “Storage at temperatures of 120°F (48°C) for more than 48 hours can accelerate the normal degradation or destruction of the vitamins.”

The FDA offers storage advice to pet food consumers, but – this is ONLY suggestion to consumers, it is not mandated for manufacturers to follow: “Store dry pet food and unopened canned food in a cool and dry place. The temperature should be less than 80 F. Excess heat or moisture may cause the nutrients to break down.”

Unfortunately, there are NO existing regulations requiring pet food manufacturers to include storage temperature requirements on their labels. With no storage temperature requirement on the pet food label, pet food consumers have no guarantee and no means to hold manufacturers accountable for transporting or warehousing pet foods in excessive temperatures.

How hot can conditions become during transportation of pet food?In general, truck trailers can get up to 30F warmer than that the outside temperature.” In other words, an air temperature higher than 50 degrees F would result in pet foods transported in a trailer above the FDA’s suggested maximum 80 degrees F. Consider how many months of the year the temperature is well above 50 degrees.

What can Pet Owners do?

We need storage temperature requirements to be stated on pet food labels. Again, without this information on the pet food label – pet foods can be stored in excessive temperatures for weeks or even months causing rancidity and nutrient break down.

In a minimal search, we found most – but not all – frozen/refrigerated pet foods included label statements such as “Keep Frozen until…” We found a few dry products with generic statements such as “Store in a cool, dry place“, none with specific temperature storage requirements. We did not find any specific temperature storage requirements for dry or canned pet foods.

Check your pet food label, look for manufacturer storage temperature requirements. If none is found – ask your manufacturer what requirements they have in place for distribution and warehousing of their products? Ask the manufacturer if the pet foods are required by written agreement/contract to be transported and warehoused under specific temperature requirements?

And significantly – ask your pet food manufacturer to include specific (not generic) storage temperature requirements on their label. Not on their website, on the actual pet food label. Information on the pet food label is enforceable – by regulatory or lawyers. As the Family Dollar Stores recall evidences, labeled storage temperature requirements hold manufacturers and retailers accountable.

If your pet food manufacturer refuses to include specific storage temperature requirements on their label, you might want to look for a brand that will.

Wishing you and your pet the best –

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Association for Truth in Pet Food

Become a member of our pet food consumer Association. Association for Truth in Pet Food is a a stakeholder organization representing the voice of pet food consumers at AAFCO and with FDA. Your membership helps representatives attend meetings and voice consumer concerns with regulatory authorities. Click Here to learn more.

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